This past Friday we decided to try Pane Rustica Bakery & Café on S. MacDill Ave. in south Tampa for dinner. I had always heard good things about Pane Rustica. After eating there this past weekend I now understand why and am glad we checked it out.
Pane Rustica started out in a small space on MacDill where the bakery developed a strong following. After moving down the street into bigger digs, Pane Rustica expanded last year beyond bread, coffee and sandwiches into a full dinner menu with table service.
While Pane Rustica is nondescript from the outside, inside the place is deep and open with hints of trendiness (but not over the top where it would turn me of). After taking in the menu and surroundings, Traci and I both ordered a bowl of gazpacho (a chilled tomato based soup) as a starter and split a mixed green salad with apple slices, pecans and a sweet vinaigrette dressing.
For our main course we shared a flat bread pizza topped with sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers and mozzarella. We gobbled up the complimentary fresh bread with olive oil and a creamy hummus as we waited on our order.
The pizza and the salad were both enjoyable. The gazpacho was solid, but the taste was a little on the bland side. Our favorite gazpacho is at The Columbia. My only other minor gripe was that, in the area where we sat at least, the other tables are practically on top of you. A little more privacy would have been nice. The couple next to us bickering got annoying very fast.
I've read some comments about Pane Rustica's servers being slow and disorganized, but at least on our visit last Friday the server was friendly and attentive. My favorite meal over the past few months remains Red Mesa on 4th St. N. in St. Pete, but Pane Rustica comes in a solid second. We definitely plan to eat at Pane Rustica again and explore more of its menu.
Bottom-line: We had an enjoyable meal on our first visit to Pane Rustica last week and look forward to going back. Prices are reasonable for the food quality and we didn't run into poor service.
Inspection Scorecard: Last Inspection- June 2006 violations - Critical (6), Non-Critical (7).